Center of Renewable Resources CoRR
Faculty of Bioscience Engineering - Ghent University
The Department of Plant Systems Biology (PSB)  
The Department of Plant Systems Biology (PSB) is one of the departments of the Flanders Institute for Biotechnology (VIB). The aim of PSB is to integrate genetics, genomics and biocomputing to unravel the biology of plants and to further explore the potential of plants to build a sustainable world.

It is now widely accepted that the expansion of human society threatens our habitat. This growth currently places an ever-increasing burden on the earth's natural resources (oil, water, farm land, forests) and is, therefore, not sustainable. There is no doubt that in the coming decades plants will play a significant role in easing these major challenges facing mankind. Plants will provide more food and feed but also renewable sources of energy, chemicals, pharmaceuticals and other commodities. The genetic improvement of plants will yield better and novel traits such as increased biomass production and resilience in suboptimal environmental conditions. New technologies will make it possible to bring agriculture into harmony with the environment.

Our understanding of plant genomes and plant molecular processes has increased spectacularly over the last decade and it is only now that the full potential of plants can be harnessed. For the first time in the history of biology, the emerging field of systems biology offers a framework to fully understand complex processes such as plant growth. This requires the development of novel tools and disciplines to integrate and model, on a multi-level scale, the overwhelming number of dynamic
interactions between genes, RNAs, proteins and metabolites. Ultimately, systems biology will enable us to predict how components of the molecular machinery can be altered to obtain a desired product.

The ambition of the Department of Plant Systems Biology is to spearhead the further development of systems biology approaches in the field of plant sciences with the concrete goal to create improved crops important for sustainable development. Such genetic improvement can be accomplished either by molecular breeding or genetic engineering. But the task is daunting and many of the required tools still need to be forged.
Therefore, the Department chose to study in particular the mechanisms controlling cell division and organ growth. The know-how generated is key for the understanding and improvement of plant growth and biomass production. The Department also contributes to the creation of a sustainable world through its research on yield stability (stress tolerance), heterosis, plant-derived pharmaceuticals, nitrogen fixation, wood formation, bio-energy and the comparative analysis of plant genomes. An important component of our activities is also focused on translational research enabling the transfer of knowledge from plant models to crops.

PSB, and VIB as whole, have a long standing tradition of converting basic scientific research into successful industrial entities: Plant Genetic Systems (now Bayer Crop Science), CropDesign (now BASF Plant Sciences), Devgen and more recently Solucel. Today, these companies together with the department form the largest European Plant Biotechnology campus. The integration of fundamental research and industrial applications is key to tap into the immense potential plants offer to build a sustainable world.

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